The Dilemma of Saudi Arabian Homes in Riyadh

Bob Giddings*, Majid Almehrej, Manuel Cresciani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


The courtyard form of the traditional Arab house responded to both climate and the culture of its inhabitants. Islamic values, as well as socioeconomic factors, played crucial roles in the design. However, the mid-20th century marked the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s first rapid economic growth as a result of the discovery of oil; which dramatically increased the wealth and prosperity of the population, and resulted in new lifestyles. This period witnessed the introduction of the grid layout street pattern and the detached villa house. This type became the prevalent style in Saudi Arabia, the central province, and Riyadh in particular. While the traditional courtyard house more than satisfied cultural needs, increasingly it was viewed inappropriate for affluent 21st-century lifestyles. Yet this research confirmed that the villa style is creating fundamental problems for Saudi families. The theoretical framework is set in sustainability theory, and investigates the principles of home through human needs, place, and house. The methodology uses a survey strategy with questionnaires, interviews, and building analysis to determine which aspects of home are satisfied by each type. The dilemma is that Saudi families will not return to the courtyard type because it does not meet important requirements of status; whereas the villa type does not meet significant criteria such as privacy. The context is increasing climatic temperatures, which are making both types increasingly uncomfortable. This study highlights the need for a specific contemporary home style that would satisfy 21st-century aspirations, respect Islamic culture, and respond to changing climate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120633122096126
Pages (from-to)4-22
Number of pages19
JournalSpace and Culture
Issue number1
Early online date9 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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